Monday, May 14, 2012


This post is brought to you by my awesome husband who took me to see The Avengers yesterday for my Mother's Day gift--I think this ranks up there as one of the best gifts I've gotten in a while.

Let's put some of this in context of my movie-going history and personal opinion on Marvel/DC comics. This marks one of my first trips to see any of the newer super hero movies in the theater. I like super hero movies, but generally I'm not enough of a fan to really want to see it in theaters. I'll wait till I can get it from Red Box or some other movie rental place. Actually calling me any kind of fan of the genre is a bit of a stretch. I liked watching X-Men and Batman and others as cartoon series when I caught them on TV when I was much younger. I did not watch them religiously. I did not collect or read the comics. In fact when Iron Man came out I really drug my feet getting around to watching it. I didn't think I'd like it. I admit I'm super picky about what I watch and what I like, and Iron Man just didn't look like something I'd like. I think the only reason I finally sat down to watch it is that one of my cousins was on the tech crew for the movie. To show some familial support, I did eventually sit down to watch it. I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I loved how Robert Downey Jr. brought the character to life.

My viewing of Iron Man sparked an interest in that line of super hero movies. That is probably a good thing considering I was growing increasingly disappointed in the X-Men movies, didn't care much for the Superman movie, and felt that the new series of dark Batman movies, although good, were over-hyped, and the whole genre was about to get dropped from my list of movies that I wanted to watch at some point. Ok, so I'll say I did really like Batman Begins, but I just couldn't get into Heath Ledger's version of the Joker in The Dark Knight. In any case, a lot of the hero genre movies were decent, but they never really clicked with my tastes. Anyways, the purpose of this post is not to rant on those movies, and I'm getting off topic. =) So, I watched Iron Man, and I loved it. I have also watched Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Hulk (the remake--I still haven't seen the first one that Ang Lee directed), and I enjoyed all of those. I appreciated the balance of character, story, action, humor and drama. I waited to watch all of those until they hit DVD. I liked them enough, though, that when The Avengers was announced, it made my incredibly short list of movies I wanted to see in the theater. There are certain movies that attract my interest, but usually it's only things like The Lord of the Rings that make that list--in fact it is quite possible that The Return of the King was the last movie I told my husband I wanted him to take me to see. No, wait. I asked to see Hunger Games a month or so ago, but before that, I think it was The Return of the King. This year might actually break personal records given that I'm also going to ask to see The Hobbit this December. I'm sure this will make my husband happy since he really enjoys movies and it's a rare treat when I actually want to go to the movies.

Anyways, that said, The Avengers did not disappoint, which, in my opinion, is impressive because I went in with high expectations. I find that if I go in with low expectations, I'm more likely to enjoy the movie. Yes, I'm a cynic when it comes to a lot of things. Anyways, back on topic. One of the biggest things I liked about The Avengers was that each character got a fair amount of screen time (unlike say X-Men 3 which might as well have been named Wolverine considering how much the movie focused on him compared to other characters). I think I would have a tough time picking out a favorite; I like all of them, and so I really appreciated that the movie didn't focus too much on any one of them. I liked that there was depth to the characters and a lot of it was worked subtly into the story. I liked the balance of humor and seriousness in the plot and character interactions. There was a lot to the movie that I really liked, although I haven't mulled over it enough to really put my opinion into words--it usually takes me some time to convert feelings and impressions into coherent sentences. =) Overall though, I loved the movie. I want to draw stuff for it (yes, this is my standard response for things that I get excited over), and I probably will--be watching for some of that come June (once the next round of craziness dies down--more on this next week ^_~ ). I'm sure there are a lot of details that true comic fans will find wrong with the movie, but maybe it's worth it. The Avengers movie and the series of movies leading up to it (and I'm sure we can add the series of movies that are going to come from it considering the box office success) has certainly done a lot to draw me into American comic fandom, and that's something that may not have ever happened otherwise.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Work Space I

One of the great perks of our new house is my upstairs craft room. I will be spending the next couple of Fridays sharing what I've done with the room. I enjoyed looking through other places seeing what others had done with their spaces, so I see this as returning the favor. Deciding how to put my room together presented several challenges, the largest of which is the fact that I don't just make costumes or just draw or just do any one thing. I enjoy playing with all kinds of different crafts and over the last 12 years or so, I've collected a lot materials, tools and other supplies. My goal was to find a home for everything--all the tools, all the scrap materials and extra yarn, and so on--as well as have space to work. In the house we sold back in November, I had a craft room (sort of--it never got completely unpacked and functional). There I had installed a countertop on some cabinets with some shelves, and then I had purchased an 8 ft. folding table to use as a work bench. I salvaged most of those supplies. We had cut down the countertop a little to fit it in the rental house we had for about a year--we had a rent with option to purchase contract on that house and had intended to purchase it as soon as our old house sold. For a variety of reasons, not buying that house has turned out to be a very good thing for us in ways we could not have foreseen, but that's a post for another time (or maybe not at all since it really doesn't have a lot to do with my art which is really what this blog is supposed to be about). In any case, I still had shelves, the countertop and cabinets and the work bench. There were things that were not so good about that system of organization that I discovered over the years using it. For example the sewing machine had a spot on the counter with a space between the cabinets where I could theoretically sit at a stool and sew. What was wrong with that? Well, I neglected to consider that the foot controller thing wouldn't reach to the floor from the height of the counter. That made sewing difficult. Then the work bench was supposed to stay mostly clean and available for cutting out fabric or whatever else I needed to work on. That never happened either. That table ended up becoming the catch-all spot for everything in the room. The sewing machine ended up there; the computer, scanner and tablet also found homes there. Really it became generally useless over time because of the amount of stuff that accumulated on the table that had no other real functional home.

My goal with this room was to avoid some of those problems. So, how did I go about doing this? Well, first of all, I tried to make a comprehensive list of all the craft projects I might work on up here. Then I looked at things that could be grouped together. For example, costume projects and quilting projects use a lot of the same basic supplies. Also, scrapbooking, stamping, and other paper crafts could share some of the same space since they too use a lot of the same basic supplies. I would want space to store all of the supplies and tools for each type of project together--one of the other big problems I've had in past attempts at creating craft rooms is that nothing ever got entirely unpacked or organized which meant I could not find things. Next I considered the fact that my sewing machine and computer/scanner/tablet/drawing paper are the two things I spend the most time working with. I wanted to have two permanent work stations where I could leave those things set up that did not involve the big work bench.

While pondering how to organize my room, the first thing we did was paint the room. When we bought the house, this room was painted a bright kelly green. Although this isn't necessarily a bad color, and I know it appeals to a lot of people, it is not a color suited to my tastes. I had originally planned on painting the room a light purple and then adding a darker purple texture to it, but after spending some time in this house, I decided that I needed to reverse those color choices--using a dark purple base and adding a lighter purple texture to that. The rooms in this house are painted with a lot of dark saturated colors and the pastel base in this room just didn't feel right here. So, we took a weekend to prime, paint, and sponge the room. My husband helped a lot here--since I wasn't supposed to be spending large quantities of time inhaling paint fumes; that would have been bad for baby. I did some work, but kept it limited, so my husband deserves most of the credit for the paint job here. =) Below are some "before" and "after" pictures of the paint in this room. Something else we added was an overhead light with fan since this room didn't have anything for lighting.

The pictures aren't great. The first one is this room with my workbench and still green. You can also see the old couch I've kept in my last 2 craft areas. I was determined I'd find a home for it here too. In the second picture, you can see my husband touching up some of the paint around the door, and the overhead light has been installed. I meant to get a picture of the room after we'd put the dark purple base down, but I forgot. The third picture is an up close of the walls with the sponge texture. The last picture is of the old countertop, cabinets and shelves from the previous craft areas. Sadly this was the only piece of the room that I remembered to photograph before putting stuff on it. XD Next week, I'll post more on what I actually did to organize this room.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wednesday WIP Posts Are Back

Now that I'm back to writing on this blog, Wednesdays will once again be dedicated to stuff I've been working on. Being that this is a convention month, I have a ton of stuff planned for this month. We will be attending Animazement in Raleigh, NC Memorial Day weekend; I believe this will be our 13th year going. Boy does that make me feel old. I will not have an Artist Alley table there this year. I am not particularly sad about this, since we will have a couple week old baby with us. I am planning on submitting some plushies to the Art Auction, participating in the artist charity event (if they hold it--which reminds me I need to email someone about that), and hanging out with family and friends (while cosplaying of course).

Let's start with what I have planned for the AZ Art Show. Technically I have lots of things I'd like to do, but given time constraints, I'm going to keep it to one set of things. As you might know, I like to make little chibi amigurumi plushies. I also happen to really like the new My Little Pony: Frienship Is Magic show. I've been wanting to try my hand at making pony plushies for a little while now. I've debated whether or not it was something I wanted to make available on my tables and in my Etsy shop. I've decided to go with the "not" answer. With the manes and tails and some of the details (like cutie marks) I think they will be more involved than the plushies I normally make for my table. Considering I have a hard enough time keeping plushies in stock for that as well, expanding that inventory just doesn't seem like a great idea at the moment. So, I am putting together a set of one of a kind pony plushies just for the auction at AZ. I have seven planned: the main six plus Derpy. Given that I have about 2 weeks left to get these done, I guess we'll see whether I make that goal or not. Today's WIP photo features the bodies and appendages for Twilight Sparkle and Rarity, although Rarity's body is still missing it's stuffing. =P I will hopefully be finishing those two up in the next day or so and be moving on to the rest.

Next up is costumes. AZ is the one convention where we really focus on cosplay. We have participated in the cosplay Masquerade Contest every year for the last 12 years. This will mark the first year that we are not planning to compete. I imagine it is going to feel weird not spending most of Saturday on that. However, we are still planning on cosplaying. This year's costume set will come from Soul Eater. I have wanted to dress my 3 older boys as Death the Kid, Black Star, and Soul for a couple of years now, and now seems as good a time as any to try that. My husband will be going as Stein and I'm planning on going as Marie. Originally I was going to cosplay Blair--I really like her witch outfit and it didn't seem like there was any real "pairings" (romantic or otherwise) outside of the main 3 characters and their weapons--given a choice, my husband and I like to do "couple" cosplays or at least cosplay characters that have a connection with each other. Having watched more of the series since then, I decided that maybe I could do Medusa or Marie since both of those ladies have clear connections with Stein. I've picked Marie because I like her, I happen to already own shoes for her cosplay, and she's a giant hammer.... I have a big thing for giant hammers. XD This is probably why I gravitate toward paladins and clerics in fantasy rpg games. Anyways. That's our cosplay lineup. We are still debating on what to dress the new baby as. I am still leaning toward Blair cat if it's a girl. I'm thinking maybe the priest Death Scythe character whose name is completely slipping my mind if it's a boy. Current progress consists of printing out references and digging through my scrap fabric drawers to see what I can use from what I already have for these costumes. Amazingly, I am only going to have to get a little bit for my costsume, stuff for Stein's sweater, and the yellow on Soul. This is cool because it means my fabric shopping bill is going to be almost reasonable--this very rarely happens when you're making this many costumes. Today's WIP photo is a pile of fabric that will eventually be costumes.

Finally, I have been working on a massive commission project I picked up at Magfest. This has been an incredible challenge--in a mostly good way. I was asked to draw the entire playable cast from Final Fantasy VI as a poster in the style of the Nintendo Noir badge set I put together. Originally my customer had asked for a movie poster style picture, but after some brainstorming, I included a mock-up of a club scene with all the characters in it along with a couple of movie poster mock-ups with the first set of WIPs I sent and he really latched onto the club idea. In hindsight, I probably made more work for myself, but it's been a fun project, so I'm not going to complain--my only real frustration is that it's taken me so long to get it finished. Of course, realistically, I was putting fourteen characters into a picture, each of which had to be redesigned for the noir setting plus there are more background details to add and so on. It is a large project, and that, combined with the moving mess, means that it was going to take some time to finish. That said, I'm definitely on the home stretch now. The character redesigns and sketches have been finished. Everything has been scanned into the computer, and I am nearly finished with the lineart, which is where the bulk of the work for the noir pictures is. Everything gets shaded in black, and color is added behind that to keep with the noir style. Since this is a poster, and not a small badge, I have used several shades of dark gray for shading to give it more detail and depth as opposed to the solid black I used for the original badge set. I have a little bit to add to the background in the top and bottom corners on the right side of the picture, and then I need to put in the carpeting on the floor. That will finish the lineart phase. Then I will fill in the color behind everything, clean up the lines, and everything should be done then. So far, I am very pleased with how it's coming out. =D

Monday, May 7, 2012

Where I've Been

It's been a while since I last posted here. A lot has happened, not just since the last post, but since I first posted about our move back in July of last year. To sum up: last July we determined we needed to move. Our old house was not showing any sign of selling, and we could not afford to pay for both a mortgage and rent along with utilities on two houses. July was spent packing up almost everything to go to a storage unit. I had to say goodbye to a lot of my favorite crafting supplies and tools. The plan was to move back into the old house. We would leave it on the market, which mean that we could only take the bare minimum in the way of furniture and day-to-day necessities. I still took some cosplay stuff and art supplies. We moved out of the rental house on July 29, dropped the cats off at our old house, and went to Otakon. From August through October, we functioned as best we could--I even managed to keep posting here regularly--under the circumstances. I still got some art and cosplay stuff done. Our agent was awesome in that she was getting people in to see our house even though the peak selling season was over. November 2 was one of the best days for me last year; we got a call from our agent that there was an offer on our house. The stress of having to keep the house looking unlived in with 3 little boys and 4 cats plus the 2.5 hour drive each way my husband had to make to go to work was really starting to wear us down at that point. The sale went fairly smoothly, and the house closed on November 30. Great! That left us homeless though since I refused to go house hunting until we were officially rid of the old house--I'm a cynic about these things, and until we signed the closing papers I wasn't about to assume it was a done deal.

This brings us up to the point where I quit posting here, more or less. My parents awesomely let us stay with them once the house sold. Some weeks we spent with my husband's parents, although most weeks my husband went there by himself, since they lived closer to where he worked (1.25 hour commute versus 4.75 hour commute each way). In theory, I thought I'd have more time to work on art, website, and generally keeping up with things. My mom said she'd help with the kids; you'd think a house that had between 2-4 adults there at any time could handle 3 boys. Nope. To be fair it wasn't 100% them, although I think their exuberance really wore on my parents after the first week or two. My Mom and I have generally gotten along a lot better in the last 5-10 years than we have historically--we even managed to have a girl's week where we shopped for crafty things, worked on crafty things and watched all of FMA: Brotherhood and Ouran High School Host Club. Apparently we can owe that to the fact that I lived no where near her. I won't go into details. It wasn't anything really bad; we just grated on each other's nerves, which meant there was usually a lot of tension there. I also discovered that in the process of trying to settle in and not step on everyone's toes too much (I don't think it would have been possible to avoid that completely) I was severely limited on computer time, art time, and forget anything that involved more than a sketch pad and pencil. Let's also add into the mix that early November, I found out I was expecting baby #4, so we can add in a lot emotional and hormonal ups and downs from me. Don't get me wrong; I really appreciate my parents for what they did, and I know it was just as hard on them (if not more so) than it was on me and the boys. That was just a large part of why I let go of blogging for a little while along with most other social networking.

So, onto happier topics... We spent December getting loan approval--since the house sold, we were not free to buy again instead of just rent--and looking at houses. Just before Christmas, we found an amazing house. Ok, it's not perfect, but it's pretty close to it by our standards. It's certainly a lot larger than what I expected given our budget. We have 3 kids, soon to be 4--baby's due today, so it will be 4 very soon; all 4 of our kids are going to get their own rooms. This is not something we ever thought would really happen. I mean, we thought it'd be cool if we could work something out, but given that we're not rolling in money, I didn't think we'd find a home with that many bedrooms in our price range. Alright, so lots of bedrooms is a bonus. This house also has a largish bonus room where I can confine all my craft projects, supplies, and general mess. It's like a dream come true. I think the only things I might have added would have been a room suitable for a school room since we homeschool and a better yard. We have a yard, but the house is built on what used to be a slate mine, so the back yard is more dirt and rock than grass; it's going to be a while before we can get anything to really grow there. I have turned the formal dining room (seriously... why does that room even exist? why do we need two places to eat? personally I think the kitchen is good enough) into a partial school room. It's really open and kind of smallish, so all it can really hold are some bookshelves and the old computers we let the kids use for school projects. Some time this month, I will probably post blogs on both the school area and my craft area to share with people what I've done in those areas.

Obviously, we got the house. So, what happened between Christmas and April 4 when we closed on the house? The house was a short sale--this is why we could afford it. This meant that our offer had to not just be approved by the sellers, but it also had to be approved by the seller's bank, the one holding their mortgage, since basically the bank would be "forgiving" the difference between our offer and what the sellers still owed on the mortgage. It took till late February to get verbal approval back from their bank. They didn't actually get the signed contract to us until almost the second week of March, and our lender wouldn't start any of their paperwork until that contract was in their hands. >_< Yeah, the slowness of bureaucracy and the banking industry. Long story short, it took a little over 3 months of passing paperwork between more people than should have been necessary to get to closing. This whole period really stressed the limits of my patience.

So, late March we moved in--the sellers were nice enough to let us "rent" the house for a week before closing since we had arranged for a truck to move us (closing had initially been set for the next to last week of March... of course, that didn't happen, and that could have really screwed us up) the last week of March. This was good because the next opportunity to move would have been mid April. Anyways. We moved in. I should also add that this house is in the middle of nowhere, and we had a bugger of a time finding someone who could provide internet service out here. It was late April before we finally got internet set up here. That was another tough time that tried my patience. XD I admit, I'm an addict. It's amazing how much we rely on the internet. Late April we held my youngest's (sort of) 5th birthday party. I've been trying to keep working on projects, including that Final Fantasy VI commission piece I mentioned in my last post back in January, some plushies for the Animazement Art Show, and costumes for Animazement. It's slow, given the energy and hormonal fluctuations of being in late pregnancy, but things are getting done. I'm really excited about how things are coming together. Really, we've only been here about a month, and my craft room is not only functional but also clean and organized. Almost all of my art and craft supplies have been unpacked and have a home--I think the only thing missing is a filing cabinet for all my patterns. I don't think I've ever been this much unpacked this soon after moving... usually this is where we're at maybe a year after moving.

Alright, so that's the rough summation of my life since we started this whole move process. Wednesday, I'll be posting more on upcoming projects along with some WIP pics.